A white paper grounded in serious scholarship and standing copyright/intellectual property law is warranted, I think. I have no idea what that might cost but it would be a just cause to support and donate to.
Julianne Snider
EMS Museum & Art Gallery
Penn State
----- Original Message -----
From: Dino Pulera <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Tue, 14 Mar 2017 08:06:13 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: [SCIART] article: Copyright and the Use of Images as Biodiversity Data

Hi Everyone,

I found this article very alarming and wanted to bring it to the attention of Bill Westwood, who is very knowledgeable about copyright law. I wanted to share the response Bill posted to the AMI listserv:

Disturbing Copyright Related Article

To All,

A GNSI friend just sent me the following link to an article currently trending among our GNSI colleagues on their Listserv.  It regards "a recent paper on copyrighting scientific illustrations used in taxonomic identification” and the authors’ contentions that this material should not qualify to be protected by copyright. Here’s the link:

Copyright and the Use of Images as Biodiversity Data<>
Taxonomy is the discipline responsible for charting the world’s organismic diversity, understanding ancestor/descendant relationships, and organizing all species according to a unified taxonomic classification system. Taxonomists document the attributes (characters) of organisms, with emphasis on those can be used to distinguish species from each other. Character information is compiled in the scientific literature as text, tables, and images. The information is presented according to conventions that vary among taxonomic domains; such conventions facilitate comparison among similar species, even when descriptions are published by different authors. There is considerable uncertainty within the taxonomic community as to how to re-use images that were included in taxonomic publications, especially in regard to whether copyright applies. This article deals with the principles and application of copyright law, database protection, and protection against unfair competition, as applied to images. We conclude th

This is potentially scary stuff and aspects of the arguments presented will certainly spill over into medical illustration in the near future when our current copyright laws undergo revision.  While I couldn’t find out much about four of the five authors, I did find a website with information on Dr. Jeremy Miller, (  a senior research scientist who specializes in spiders.  Miller openly advocates for “free and open exchange of scientific data” and open access publishing.  He and his co-authors are clearly among the “information needs to be free” crowd.
Jeremy Miller - Naturalis Biodiversity Center<>
Contact Email: [log in to unmask] Phone: +31 (0)71-75 17 379 Room number: C.03.12, Darwinweg 2

The authors of this article provide specious copyright information and twisted logic to promulgate their wrong headed arguments that current copyright laws don’t (and shouldn’t) protect scientific illustrations because they “don’t qualify” as "creative enough" to warrant copyright protection because of the way they provide visual information.

While the whole premise behind their argument(s) is incorrect, they intertwine logical “sounding” concepts about copyright law and scientific illustration in ways that might be persuasive to someone who doesn’t fully understand either copyright or scientific illustration.

The bottom line here is that these authors are part of the “copyleft” ilk who want to seriously weaken or do away with copyright protections for creators’ work.

I believe that the AMI and GNSI should pool their $$ resources and find/hire a copyright scholar who would write a white paper refuting the arguments made by this article and its authors.  To do nothing might seem easier, but trust me, allowing this type of thinking and these wrong-headed arguments to propagate and grow without any pushback, will come back to seriously hurt all of us in the not to distant future.



William B. Westwood, MS
Board Certified Medical Illustrator
Westwood Medical Communications
915 Broadway
Albany, New York  12207


Sent from Outlook<>

From: SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Emily S. Damstra <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: March 11, 2017 6:28 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [SCIART] article: Copyright and the Use of Images as Biodiversity Data

Hi all,
Glendon Mellow just brought  to my attention this journal article about scientific images in scientific literature:

A few pertinent quotes:

"Standards in scientific imaging minimize creative variation to ensure that the subject is represented in a consistent way and can be integrated into the corpus of scientific literature. Because of the need to comply with standards, we argue that such images lack “sufficient individuality”, the central criterion used to determine if an illustration qualifies as a “work” in the sense of copyright law."

"Illustrations that follow predefined rules or conventions do not qualify as copyrightable works. Illustrations of biological information, especially in taxonomy, usually follow conventions that facilitate comparisons with similar illustrations. When this is the case, the images do not qualify as copyrightable works."

"Considering this outline of intellectual property rights, we conclude that principles of copyright do not normally apply to scientific images because most images adhere to the conventions of the discipline. Certainly, copyright is not applicable to images that are intended to facilitate comparison among related taxa."

I find it disturbing that this article was published in a peer reviewed journal. It sounds to me like these authors are trying to play at being Intellectual Property Judges. As far as I'm concerned, they're entitled to their opinions but they have no right to make blanket statements about what is or is not copyright infringement. I presume they've never tried to make a living creating images. It's disheartening to read this sort of thing. I wonder if GNSI should publish a reply. (Then again, perhaps it is better to simply ignore it).

I would be curious to know what everyone else thinks about this article.
Emily S. Damstra
natural science illustration
Guelph, Ontario
(519) 616-3654
[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]><>


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Julianne Snider
Asst. Director
Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum & Art Gallery
116 Deike Bldg.
Penn State University
University Park PA 16802
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